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Microsoft PowerPoint for iOS review: Presenter View feature makes the subscription version worth it

Joe Kissell | Dec. 9, 2014
When I reviewed PowerPoint for iPad version 1.0 back in April 2014, I found a lot to like but dinged the app for a few notable omissions; I also noted its dependence on a paid Office 365 subscription. Now at version 1.3, PowerPoint for iOS works on iPhones as well, and has adopted a new freemium model (like the other Office apps--Word and Excel) in which most of its features are available even to those who don't pay for Office 365.

Chasing perfection 

Although version 1.3 addressed my biggest complaints, it's still not a match for the desktop version of PowerPoint. A number of the limitations I mentioned in my earlier review are still present. For example, you have limited control over transitions; and you can't create new themes, add SmartArt, or see your slides in Outline view. On an iPad, you can see comments added on a Mac or PC, but not edit them or add new comments; comments are entirely absent on the iPhone.

The only significant bug I found (if indeed it is a bug) feels like an advantage. Because I already had an Office 365 subscription but wanted to test PowerPoint's behavior without it, I tried signing out. But that didn't disable any of the premium features. Neither did force-quitting the app, signing in using a different Microsoft account without an Office 365 subscription, restarting my iPad, or even deleting and reinstalling PowerPoint. In fact, the only way I could convince PowerPoint to treat me as a non-subscriber was to erase all the content and settings from an iPad, sign in to the App Store with a new Apple ID, download PowerPoint, and then skip signing in with a Microsoft account. (Similarly, after signing in to a free Microsoft account and then signing out, edit capabilities remained.) In other words: once you've enabled a higher level of access, it is exceptionally persistent. 

On the other hand, I noticed that signing out from my Microsoft account also disabled Dropbox access, and I couldn't restore Dropbox access until I first signed back in to a Microsoft account — my only option besides local storage was SharePoint. (This was odd given that I could access Dropbox without signing in at all after a fresh install.) Since even a free Microsoft account will do for this purpose, that's a minor inconvenience.

Bottom line

If you take an Office 365 subscription for granted — which, after all, was required in PowerPoint version 1.0 — version 1.3 is a phenomenal improvement. If, on the other hand, you approach it as a free tool, you get a perfectly nice, if limited, iOS app that can view, create, edit, and present native PowerPoint documents. That's nothing to sneeze at, considering how difficult it was to do any of that just nine months ago — and free is free, after all. But anyone wanting to do serious editing or use Presenter View will want to spring for a subscription.


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